The back pages of my manuscript are in a community box at the base of my desk, used for everything from hand-scribbled to-do lists to elaborate Crayola caricatures of our family in stick figure form. To reuse them sends my environmentally-aware Catholic-guilt side a message that the forest of trees sacrificed so that I could spin a 90,000 word yarn was not in vein. No one would doubt the critical nature of a grocery list with 30 items and only twenty minutes to spare.
Not one of these pages, no matter how torn or frayed, makes it past my internal editor. Standing at the refrigerated section of Kroger, frigid wind blasting my still-anemic Winter legs, I turn the list and reread a tiny snapshot of my story. Sometimes I adore what I find--barely able to recall that the words had come from me. Sometimes, I make myself crazy reconstructing a sentence, no matter how much it seems to have that "ring of inevitability", that it's always been that way and will until we're all reduced to ash. Most of the time, something interrupts my muse and I realize how crazy it is to revisit the same lines like a parent clinging to a child ready to begin a life of independence. Almost always, someone is there to break the spell--a gangly teenager stocking yogurt, a family member with more pressing concerns than the words that filled our character's world--and I'm grateful. It helps me see the forest past the trees between my fingertips.
And the few times my list has slipped out of my control, blown to the dust bunnies beneath the snack food aisle? Maybe one day it'll show up on grocerylists.org, a site devoted to publishing found lists. Maybe someone, somewhere will read the snapshot of my novel and the craving to read more will be stronger than their urge to gorge on the chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts hidden in their basket.
A writer can only hope...
Grocery store musak for the day: Hall and Oates